Unilever announced that CEO Paul Polman has decided to retire from the company. Alan Jope, currently President, Beauty & Personal Care, has been appointed to the position, effective January 1, 2019. Polman will support the transition process in the first half of 2019 and Polman will retire as CEO and as a Board member on 31 December 2018.
The move comes less than two months after his plan to change Unilever's headquarters was scrapped in the wake of shareholder criticism. Unilever has headquarters in both London and Rotterdam and the proposed change would have seen it based solely in the Netherlands. The investors argued the move could have forced UK shareholders to sell their shares.
Polman has been Unilever CEO for 10 years and has worked in the consumer goods industry for almost four decades. During his tenure, the company has delivered consistent top and bottom line growth ahead of its markets. Its focus on successfully pioneering a new model of sustainable growth has served the needs of its many stakeholders and created excellent returns for its shareholders, delivering a Total Shareholder Return of 290% over that period.
Jope, 54, has led Beauty & Personal Care, Unilever’s largest Division, since 2014 and has been on the company’s Leadership Executive since 2011. He has an excellent track record of leading Unilever’s business in both developed and emerging markets, having run the company’s North Asia business for four years, served as President, Russia, Africa & Middle East, and spent over a decade in senior Foods, Home Care and Personal Care roles for Unilever US.
Commenting on Polman’s retirement from the company, Marijn Dekkers, Unilever Chairman, said, “Paul is an exceptional business leader who has transformed Unilever, making it one of the best-performing companies in its sector, and one of the most admired businesses in the world. His role in helping to define a new era of responsible capitalism, embodied in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, marks him out as one of the most far-sighted business leaders of his generation.”
On Jope’s appointment, Dekkers said, “Having worked for Unilever in a variety of senior management roles, Alan has a deep understanding and experience of our business, the industry, and the markets in which we operate. He is a strong, dynamic and values-driven leader with an impressive track record of delivering consistent high-quality performance.”
On leaving Unilever, Polman said, “I congratulate Alan on his appointment and look forward to working with him on the transition. Having worked closely with Alan for many years, I am highly confident that under his leadership, Unilever will prosper long into the future. His appointment demonstrates the strength of Unilever’s succession planning and talent pipeline.
On his elevation in the company, Jope said, “It will be a huge privilege to lead Unilever – a truly global company full of talented people, and brilliant brands. Over the 30 years I have worked at Unilever, I have seen the many ways in which our brands improve people’s lives, positively impacting more than two billion citizens every day.”